Tips For Managing Introverts on Your Tech Team
Developers, engineers, computer scientists, data analysts etc. Whichever titles you have on your team, there’s bound to be an introvert or two present. Obviously, everyone should be granted the same respect and treatment at work. However, when dealing with introverts, you might need to adapt your approach.
What’s an Introvert?
Introverts have varying dimensions when it comes to social interactions. If someone is an introvert, it doesn’t mean that they’re shy, lack confidence or don’t want to spend time with the team. A lot of introverts would actually claim that they’re extroverts who just need short breaks between social interactions and are just as confident and as social as their extroverted colleagues.
On the other hand, extroverts generally use social interaction to energize instead of needing to recharge after being around people. But, naturally, everyone is different and requires different management styles. So, how can you bring an introvert out of their shell at work?
How Do You Deal With An Introvert On A Team?
The last thing you want to do when talking to an introvert is make them feel awkward about their introvert tendencies. So, start simply. Talk to your colleague about what makes them tick. If this doesn’t give you any clues, be careful you don’t dig too deep and cross any personal conversation boundaries. After all, you’re trying to get them to perform better at work, so keep it professional.
You should also ask if this person is comfortable at work and in the work that they do. If they’re comfortable – great! If they’re not, try to figure out why and work with them on where you can improve.
Use phrases like, ‘I know you’re capable of producing excellent work, but I want to make sure your working environment suits you and that I’m doing everything I can to help you enjoy work.’
How To Nurture Introverts On Your Engineering Team
Are all web developers introverts?
Most developers spend a lot of their time in deep focus, especially backend who often are immersed in complex code. Developers could, therefore, have a reputation for being a little unsocial. But, that doesn’t make them unsocial people. Plus, developers regularly perform time sensitive, pressured tasks. So they need to focus on quickly solving the problem that’s at hand and might be less interested in chit-chat.
But, not all introverts are antisocial and not all web developers are introverts.
The most important thing to do when managing a team containing an introvert or two is to talk directly with them. Be sensitive to the fact that the conversation alone will be draining for them – so don’t ask too much of them when initially finding a solution together. You should try to come down to their level as much as you can, showing weakness within yourself as a manager allows others to find you more approachable and more comfortable at work.
Software Engineers are just that, engineers – not sales reps. As their manager, it’s up to you get them communicating effectively, especially if it isn’t something that comes naturally to them.
Managing Introverts At Work
1. Making the hire
Hiring isn’t just picking someone to join your team. There’s all sorts of buzz words we could throw at you to inspire you to hire the hottest talent. Setting standards, looking out for red flags, tech tests, culture fit, 4 stage interviews… The list goes on. But, the reality is very simple. It doesn’t matter whether someone is an introvert or not. If they work well in a team and they meet technical requirements, hire them. In fact, you should probably hire more introverts. An introvert’s nature doesn’t and shouldn’t affect their ability to be productive, work in a team or solve problems.
2. Onboarding checklists
You need to make a checklist. Yes, you might’ve hired dozens of developers without one so far, but onboarding checklists are different with each company and should be custom to each role. As counter-productive as it sounds, your introverted new employee will benefit hugely from being buddied up with someone or given a brief stint with a mentor. Although this sounds against their nature of not wanting to socialise too much, introverts can benefit hugely from having someone around to show them the ropes as it can boost their confidence from the beginning tenfold.
3. Integrating them with the team
Alex Foxmade a fantastic example of how he integrates the remote members of his team with each other. Some good points Alex brings to the table when integrating remote members of a team are:
Let your team have their alone time to crack on with their code but do your best to instill a system that allows overlap between members of the team.
Your team are capable. You know they are – that’s why you hired them. Finding balance between letting them get on with their job and checking in with them is key. A brief daily stand up can keep this balance intact.
Plan in person
Sprint planning and general project planning should be done in person in order to get everyone involved as much as possible, as obvious as it sounds, people simply don’t talk as much on virtual meetings. In person, everyone has space to talk. That said, don’t expect people to shout out or speak up in a meeting. Ask for people’s input. You’re managing egos as well as projects so don’t assume the most talkative person is the biggest contributor.
4. Closely monitor but don’t overstep boundaries
Transparent is one of those most valuable things a manager can be. Communicating problems with a constructive attitude and awareness towards someone’s mental health will go further than most other approaches. That’s absolutely not to insinuate that introverts commonly suffer with their mental health, the two are unrelated! That’s just something you should consider. Your job is to bring them out of their shell, help them realize their potential and use that talent to benefit ongoing projects.
Am I An Introvert?
If you think you might be more introvert than extrovert, here are some tips to help yourself become more confident at work.
Climb out of your comfort zone
Easier said than done. But, you should go out of your way to find people and projects that push you out of your comfort zone. This experience will grow your ability and confidence.
Find minor commonalities between you and your co-workers
You don’t have to be a natural schmoozer. But, no one wants to spend all day every day with complete strangers they know nothing about. Get to know your colleagues. You never know what you might find out.
You don’t have to be a socialite – that’s draining
Don’t drain yourself! If you’re not an extrovert, socializing might not come completely naturally to you. And, that’s okay! Your days should be spent focused on your work. Don’t exert yourself trying to be everyone’s friend. You’re also more likely to look like you’re trying too hard which can be an off putting trait. Keep things as natural as possible. If you're forcing relationships, you’re off to a losing start. Be the person you want to be, but be careful not to come across as arrogant.
Helping An Introvert Feel More Confident At Work
Managing introverts doesn’t have to be a scientific mission of psychology and persistence. Some people just like to keep themselves to themselves. And, that’s fine too. When you want to bring someone out of their introverted shell, be careful not to cross a line. Don’t ask too many questions that will make them feel like you’re pushing them to talk about something they don’t want to.
You also shouldn’t make assumptions about people’s personal lives. What you see at work might be different to who that person is outside of work. And that’s fine too! Some people set boundaries at work and it’s not your job to try and break through them. Unless you think something serious is happening with your colleague at home and need to intervene (consult HR first!), don’t ask intrusive questions.
Hiring Introverts Summary
If you have an introverted member of your team, count yourself lucky. They can be some of the hardest working, invested workers on your team. With the right amount of support, introverted workers can become super star employees, you just have to make them feel supported enough for them to produce.
They’re no more hard work to support than their extroverted colleagues, in fact, what they lack in confidence, they likely make up with work ethic. They’re deep focusers, natural workers, and nearly always care more than average about their role and work.
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